January 11, 2013

Winter Session #1: Lebanese Day!

... And we're back! This past Saturday marked the first session of our second ever Winter Session at PS24. Everyone-- both little and big sprouts alike-- were itching with excitement to begin a new season together.  It was a great day from start to finish.

The first thing on our agenda was a circle-- and plans to discuss a new design plan for our gardens. We showed the sprouts pictures of all different kinds of creative ways to garden, most recycling heavy. The sprouts were amazed. Did you know that you can transform an old dresser into a vegetable bed? How about a guitar? #excitingsurprises!

Since we spend the majority of our Summer Sessions keeping gardening skills in mind, we use our time during the winter to focus on our cooking techniques: kitchen safety is always a first priority! It's always important to ensure that all of the Little Sprouts are well prepared for all of the chopping and cooking techniques we use in the Summertime. However, we began the day with a little treat.

All summer long, the Little Sprouts begged, pleaded, and begged some more... for flowers. And so, as a surprise, with a variety of bulbs in tow,  lined up, and took a surprise trip to our summer gardens!

So, the Sprouts learned all about planting bulbs, and dug away, planting a crazy amount of flowers that will be blooming just in time for our Spring session.

We then went back to the kitchen to begin cooking. The theme? Lebanese day. Not a single hand was raised when we asked the sprouts if they had had the cuisine before. We knew we had picked something  new and exciting for them.

Lebanon. Geographically located in the East Mediterranean, the country contains three major types of terrain: a Coastal plane, mountain ranges, and a valley. All three are conducive for different types of agriculture, which operates as the third most important sector of the country. Fruits and vegetables are able to thrive in the valley (and even avocados!), citrus has the ability to grow on the coast, and olives grow in abundance in the mountains up North. Grains, specifically corn, is the number one crop of Lebanon, and then, apples and potatoes. 

Thus, the Lebanese cuisine is based on starches-- particularly whole grains. But also, fruits, vegetables, and for protein, fresh seafood, lamb, and goat. For seasoning, there is lots of lemon and olive oil. Dishes are small-- like tapas-- and so, we organized our menu this way as well!

On the menu? Fresh Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Rice Pilaf, Roasted Cauliflower and a Lamb Stew! The Sprouts had to do an enormous amount of chopping: everything from potatoes, to cauliflower, to garlic, onions, you name it! And our one rule was particularly in effect today: all sprouts- little and big alike- MUST try the food! And we all did-- and a successful day it was! 

Katya was our team leader for the day-- here are the recipes she drafted!

Rice Pilaf
Makes 6 servings
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot grated
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup uncooked white or brown basmati rice

  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable  broth (or plain water)
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the onion and carrots in the butter until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, cook until the rice is lightly toasted, pour in the broth and season with salt. Bring it to boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is done, fluff with a fork, mix in the peas then serve.

Hummus (Lebanese)
Makes 1 cup

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled (could use roasted garlic for milder flavour)
  • 1 (15 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large lemon, juiced
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika


  1. Process garlic, olive oil, tahini, water, lemon juice and salt in a food processor until foamy. Add garbanzo beans and blend until the paste is smooth and creamy.
  2. Place hummus in the serving  bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 cup teaspoon of smoked paprika, serve with whole wheat pita bread or fresh vegetables

Roasted Cauliflower and Cherry Tomatoes (Lebanese)
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower
  • 2 garlic bulbs, cloves peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 475°.
  2. Toss all of the ingredients except parsley in a large bowl. Spread cauliflower in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 475° for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring once after 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the dish from the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes, sprinkle with chopped parsley , serve warm or at room temperature.

Tahini Sauce:
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the tahini, garlic, parsley, water, and lemon juice together in a bowl until no lumps of tahini remain. Season to taste with salt and pepper.